Saturday, March 18, 2000

Mason gets third chance at state title

The Cincinnti Enquirer

Michelle Munoz led Mason to a semifinal victory.
(AP photo)
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        COLUMBUS — Michelle Munoz saw the opening and drove toward the basket.

        “When Jere' (Issenmann) passed me the ball, I saw the lane was open,” Munoz said. “I spun to my left and went in for the shot.”

        The field goal by Munoz with 22.4 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as Mason held on for a 44-42 victory over Cleveland East Tech in the Division I regional semifinals at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

        In order to win the state title, the Comets must defeat six-time and defending state champion Pickerington, a 57-48 winner over Parma Holy Name in the other semifinal game before 8,693 fans. Mason lost to Pickerington 43-30 in the 1999 state championship game playing without Beth Jones, injured in a 51-45 semifinal victory over Toledo Central Catholic.

        In 1997, Mason defeated Rocky River Magnificat 50-38 in the state semifinals but lost to Wadsworth 54-52 in the finale.

        This year, coach Gerry Lackey's Comets will play the title game with a full deck. Every player escaped injury in the victory over East Tech.

        “Michelle was double-teamed most of the game,” Issenmann said. “On the last play, they were one-on-one on her and there isn't anybody who can stop her. That's why I got the ball into her.”

        Following a timeout with 12.2 seconds remaining, East Tech's Juwana Rivers took a pass in the corner, drove toward the basket and fired a running 12-footer that was well off the mark. Mason's Jenny Imbus grabbed the rebound.

        “We wanted either Juwana or Barbara (Turner) to take the last shot,” East Tech coach Wiliam Stoval said. “We had no intention of going for a 3-pointer to win it. We wanted to send the game into overtime.”

        Mason coach Gerry Lackey explained what Mason wanted to do on East Tech's final possession.

        “We went into a 1-3-1 zone at the suggestion of my assistant (Angie Edmonds),” Lackey said. “That's a defense the kids are confortable in and one that was effective tonight.”

        The Comets appeared in trouble, trailing most of the game.

        But, Issenmann sank a crucial 3-pointer with 6:10 remaining to tie the game at 36-36 and Beth Jones followed with another for a 39-36 advantage.

        However, East Tech pulled within one at 39-38 before Issenmann sank another 3-pointer for a 42-28 advanatage. Danisha Garrison countered with a 3-pointer for East Tech and Abdul-Haqq tied it with a free throw.

        “After I had the air-ball in the third quarter, all my teammates encouraged me not to get down,” Issenmann said. “You have to have confidence to be a good shooter and that's why I kept shooting.”

        Issenmann was four-of-nine from beyond the 19.9 3-point line while Jones, who has been in a shooting slump, was three-of-10 from the floor and two-of-seven from 3-point range.

        East Tech's superior quickness and strength on the inside was another factor in the closeness of the game.

        “To come away with a victory after being outrebounded (26-15) like this is something else,” Lackey said. “We must do a much better job tomorrow against Pickerington.”

        Mason led only once in the first half, that coming when Beth Jones sank a 3-pointer with 6:59 remaining in the first quarter, giving the Comets a 3-2 advantage.

        From that point, East Tech's fast-break offense took over with the Scarabs taking a 10-5 lead and 15-11 at the quarter break.

        “I think we surprised Mason,” Stovall said. “Their coach was quoted as saying that we were a very physical team. They're ranked No. 2 in the country and we're not ranked. That's hard to believe.”

        Held to two points in the first quarter, Munoz and senior forward Jenny Imbus got involved in the Comet offense in the second quarter, both scoring six points.

        This enabled the Comets to erase a four point deficit and tie the score at 26-26 at halftime. Munoz paced Mason with eight during the first half while East Tech guard Juwana Rivers scored 10 and sophomore center Barabia Turner 9.

        CLEVELAND EAST TECH (42) -- Rivers 5-11 1-2 11, Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Turner 5-11 1-2 11, Abdul-Haqq 1-4 7-8 9, Garrison 3-8 0-0 9. Totals: 15-36 9-12 42.

        MASON (44) -- Shull 0-1 0-0 0, Issenmann 4-0 0-0 12, Munoz 7-9 0-0 14, Elis 1-3 0-0 2, Jones 3-10 2-3 10, Imbus 2-2 2-2 6. Totals: 17-35 4-5 44.


        East Tech ....... 15 11 9 7 — 42

        Mason ....... 11 15 5 13 — 44

        3-pointers: M 6-17 (Issenmann 4, Jones 2. ET 3-10 (Garrison 3). Rebounds: M 15 (Munoz 5). ET 26 (Allen 7). Assists: M 14 (Jones 7). ET 10 (Turner 5). Turnovers: ET 15, M 14. Steals: M 7 (Munoz 5). ET 4. Turnovers: M 14, ET 15. Attendance: 8,693. Officials: John Mang, Craig Bwman, Michael Driscoll). Records: M 26-0, ET 24-2.


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